The premise for this one is simple: hosts Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton take a single dish or ingredient as their starting point and pontificate upon it for the duration of the half-hour show. While that may not sound particularly riveting, the two do so in such a witty, interesting and enthusiastic way that the minutes fly by. Spilled Milk is ideal for dipping into when you're in need of a little snippet of food-related distraction – consider it the moreish snack of the podcast world. As such, the tone is anecdotal rather than hard-hitting or fact-driven, which is no bad thing; it won't make your brain hurt, but will keep you entertained and may make you hungry. The show has been running since 2010, meaning that from lentils to orange soda, scallops to mixed nuts, and buckwheat to burgers, there's a hefty backlog of episodes to get stuck into.
Becoming better informed about the food world
BBC Radio Four – The Food Programme
Podcasts may be relatively new, but BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme has been around long enough to be called a much-loved institution. It was first broadcast in 1979 with Derek Cooper at the helm, though for the last 16 years, food journalist and writer Sheila Dillon has been the main presenter, and she is often joined by producer Dan Saladino and an array of esteemed contributors.
The tagline for the programme – investigating every aspect of the food we eat – sums up the approach perfectly. From show to show and week to week, the subject matter remains eclectic. Dillon et al address problems surrounding food production and consumption and aren’t afraid to ask difficult, probing questions about these industries. At the same time, there’s lighthearted fodder too, with interviews, travelogues and episodes dedicated to recipes and ingredients – a celebration of eggs or exploration of the enduring popularity of porridge. All in all, the show makes for a highly informative and entertaining listen.
Food lovers with an appetite for all things local
If there is anyone more passionate about bringing hidden food gems in the UAE to wider attention than Arva and Farida Ahmed, then we are yet to encounter them (and will be very surprised if we ever do). You may know the sisters as the founders of Dubai's first walking food tours company, Frying Pan Adventures, but they've recently added to their repertoire with the extremely easy-to-devour podcast series The Frying Pan Diaries.
Episodes are released fortnightly and the locally focused subject matter is, as they promise at the outset, a real mezze-style affair. Weighty issues such as what exactly local and sustainable food and farming means in this region are interspersed with snippets and sound bites from the Farmer’s Market at Business Bay, interviews with small-scale producers, signature recipes from passionate local chefs and gleeful accounts of the pair’s latest delicious discovery, whether that be another-level aloo parathas or addictive Iraqi dolma. Tune in for a real audio feast.
A quick taster of something delicious
Cook the perfect
At around 10 minutes long, Cook the Perfect podcasts provide a quick, easily digestible bout of foodie escapism. Each episode sees a well-known chef or food personality chatting to hosts Jenni Murray and Jane Garvey about what they believe to be the perfect version of their chosen dish, while cooking it at the same time.
The tone is relaxed and friendly, and listening along feels a little bit like you’ve pulled up a stool at the kitchen counter of the guest in question. The majority speak with real passion about what the dish means to them, and all the while we can hear the sound of cooking going on in the background – nuts being crushed, the cracking of eggs or the sizzle of garlic being added to a hot pan.
What's also particularly nice is that all the recipes are available on the Woman's Hour website, so whether it's Antonio Carluccio's arancini, Yotam Ottolenghi's baba ganoush or Claudia Roden's almond cake that appeals, you can have a go at recreating it in your own home.
The aspiring culinary historians among us
This long-running series focuses on different points in history (eras, movements, events, the globalisation of a product) from a culinary perspective. Each hour-long episode is packed with information and more often than not sees host Linda Pelaccio joined by a well-versed guest – an author, scholar or food historian – who approaches their subject in an in-depth, academic fashion. For that reason, this is a show that’s best listened to when you can devote your full attention to it.
That's not to say that A Taste of the Past isn't fascinating though. Subscribers can scroll through the backlist until they find a subject that piques their interest. With episodes dedicated to the evolution of Chinese cuisine in the United States, detailed discussions on the complex history of black pepper, Mexican sweets and Vietnamese pho, insights into early Persian food and an analysis of what we can learn about society, politics and culture from studying menus amongst many other discussions, there's food for thought galore.
No nonsense, research-based advice on healthy eating
In the introduction to his The Doctor's Kitchen podcast, United Kingdom-based NHS doctor Rupy Aujla says that he wants to offer an "unbiased, educated perspective on health and wellness that is inclusive, rather than faddy and pretentious". At a time when we're inundated with conflicting information surrounding healthy eating and quack cures abound, as well as continually encountering problematic terms such as clean eating, a straightforward, informed approach such as his provides a welcome counterbalance.
Aujila's focus lies in highlighting the impact our diet has on what we eat, essentially embracing the idea of food and lifestyle as a form of medicine. Whether you subscribe to his beliefs entirely or not, the basic proposition makes a lot of sense: the more knowledge we have about eating and living well, the better equipped we are to make choices that are right for us as individuals. At the moment, The Kitchen Doctor features five episodes, each of them dedicated to a proponent of healthy eating and living: embracing a plant-based diet, boosting digestive health by consuming more fibre, striving to our fill our plates with brightly coloured vegetables, consuming whole foods and eating at the right time to ensure we get enough good-quality sleep. Aujila and his guests (who all come from a scientific background) talk a lot of research-based sense and they do so in a knowledgeable yet accessible manner, which is key to making this podcast enjoyable as well as informative.